Every awards season certain directors, actors, and movies are relentlessly picked apart by the media and public. Sometimes this prompts interesting think pieces but most often the big awards season stories are tiresome. (Case in point: Ben Affleck’s alleged Oscar snub.) But the constant scrutinization of Anne Hathaway has been endlessly fascinating.
While other Oscar-nominated actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain are widely adored, Hathaway can do nothing right. Not her interviews, her red carpet appearances, or her acceptance speeches. (Especially her acceptance speeches.) She has been constantly lambasted. In recent memory, no other actress who is the frontrunner to win an Oscar has been this polarizing. Let’s call this the Anne Hathaway Conundrum.
What has Hathaway done so egregiously wrong to generate so much disdain? On the surface, nothing. She is a two-time Oscar nominee. She consistently makes decent movies although she has appeared in a few duds. (It’s okay, Anne. Everyone was in Valentine’s Day.) She had one barely memorable tabloid scandal, which is admirable given that she became a major star in the last decade. She is intelligent, well-spoken, and passionate. (Just watch her speech after receiving a Human Rights Campaign award in 2008.) She is clearly talented and she even escaped from that Oscars hosting debacle relatively unscathed. So Anne Hathaway seems to be a perfectly tolerable person and actress. Right?
For no apparent reason, people do not like Hathaway. Despite my ability to recognize her many good qualities, I also kind of dislike Anne Hathaway. Maybe “dislike” is the wrong word; I just don’t care for Anne Hathaway.
Since I must over-analyze everything, I need to understand what really bothers me about Anne Hathaway. Therefore I spent the last week watching and revisiting almost every movie Hathaway has appeared in, starting with The Princess Diaries up until The Dark Knight Rises. (But not Les Miserables. You cannot pay me to see Les Mis. My friend tried and it didn’t work.) Here it goes.
Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.
I’ve chosen to write about the parent-child relationship. Since the parent-child relationship is perhaps the most common forms of human interaction, it is logical that these relationships are frequently depicted in cinema. How the parent-child relationship develops and functions within a movie’s world can be at times profound yet also problematic.
Most often, I found the films from 2012 to be using the parent-child relationship as a tool to help the audience develop an emotional connection to the characters. The masterminds behind Les Miserables added an original song “Suddenly” to emphasize Jean Valjean’s new relationship with Cosette. (Was there really a hole in the story without “Suddenly”? I don’t think so.)
Without Pat Sr., Dolores, and Robert DeNiro’s tears in Silver Linings Playbook, Pat Jr.’s struggles lose a sense of urgency. But Silver Linings Playbook is arguably about the importance of finding the value in shared human experiences with strangers, not solely one’s family, when one is most vulnerable.
In Lincoln, the affectionate relationship between President Lincoln and his youngest son Tad serves one key purpose. These scenes are a break from the heavy dialogue and politics that drive the film’s main narrative. They are simple and touching attempts to introduce us to the man behind an infamous leader. Lincoln’s relationship with his son also works to make the aftermath of his assassination more affecting. We know how this story ends but without Tad’s reaction to his father’s death,the true impact of this great man’s death would not be felt.
The parent-child relationship might be the absolute worst aspect about Argo. (You know. Besides the blatant Westernization of history and Ben Affleck’s inability to emote.) Who cares about Tony Mendez and his damn kid? This relationship is a manipulative, creative device intended to make the audience think there were more at stake during the Iranian Hostage situation than just the lives of the hostages. The nuclear American family, the one thing the United States must go to war to protect, was in danger.
It’s a good thing Maya in Zero Dark Thirty didn’t have a family. Otherwise the CIA never would have killed Osama Bin Laden.
But the films from 2012 that explicitly tackle a parent-child relationship In Brave, the mother-daughter relationship is the driving force behind Merida coming to terms with her place in a traditional (patriarchal) society. (Andrew delves more into the mother-daughter relationship in Brave in his post about parent-child relationships.)
Michael Haneke’s Amour offers the most realistic and painful exploration of parent-child relationships and how aging affects this dynamic. What happens to adult children as their parents become incapable of taking care of themselves? Isabelle Huppert’s Eva exhibits how painful this natural development is for an adult child and how it puts one at odds with their parents. Moreover Eva is a surrogate for the audience who feel utterly helpless watching a woman’s life take its natural course.
No other 2012 films tackles the complexity of a parent-child relationship more so than Beasts of the Southern Wild. Six-year-old Hushpuppy and her father Wink live in the Bathtub, a community separated from traditional society by a levee. Life is simple in the Bathtub where residents are deeply connected to nature and to each other. But this community is also definitely independent. One message is constantly repeated to Hushpuppy: “Y’all gotta learn how to survive.” Initially it seems that Hushpuppy’s survival is dependent on her relationship with her father. But Wink is sick; his unnamed illness causes him to disappear for days, leaving Hushpuppy to care for herself. In Wink’s absence, we learn about Hushpuppy’s imagined relationship with her absent mother that helps her mentally survive her father’s abandonment.
Eventually Wink returns just as a hurricane hits the Bathtub. During the hurricane, Wink acts fatherly, securing Hushpuppy with flotation devices and protecting his scared daughter from the storm. After the floodwaters rise, most of the Bathtub’s residents have scattered elsewhere. But not Wink and Hushpuppy. With a select group of survivors, they rebuild their lives and Wink starts giving Hushpuppy important survival tools. How to fish. How to eat. How to be a man.
The conflict between Wink and Hushpuppy emerges when the survivors are forced into a shelter and Wink’s illness becomes more obvious. Once again, Hushpuppy’s worst fear is realized when Wink tries to send her elsewhere. The fact is that Wink would rather send Hushpuppy away than have her witness his death. But all Hushpuppy sees is her father’s abandonment and when they do return to the Bathtub (so Wink can die at home), Hushpuppy goes on a desperate search for her mother. On this journey she meets a woman who may be her mother. Despite her longing for a loving parent, Hushpuppy realizes this woman cannot be a replacement for her father. Hushpuppy’s imagined relationship with her mama enables her accept Wink’s death. In his death, we realize that Wink given her all the necessary tools to survive without him. Without parents, Hushpuppy will be taken in by the members of the community and the Bathtub will continue to thrive, as either a reality or a fantasy.
For some reason, this year I thought I could change my ways. I tried so hard not to care about Awards Season and to snark on them along the way. (Did you see my Golden Globes commentary? It was so hilarious, no one got the joke.) But it’s a lie. I’m still obsessed with the Oscars and I watched Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone announced the nominations this morning. The Oscars will always be one of my favorite things. Here are some of my quick thoughts on some of the nominations: Continue reading “Snap Judgments: 2013 Academy Award Nominations”
Okay. I have a dilemma. Since October, I have been struggling (struggling) to write about Les Misérables. This post has gone through multiple drafts. First, I attempted to mock the character posters, which are awful. Then I called it “My Inability to Give Two Shits About Les Mis,” which fell through because obviously I do give a shit. Now I’m hoping to write this post without seeming like a bitter bitch who hates Anne Hathaway, which is an easy trap that some people apparently fall into. (Hating someone’s face is an absurd reason to dislike an actor/actress. But I digress.)
So why does everything associated with Les Misérables make me irrationally angry? I honestly don’t know. We are in the middle of the full Les Miserables publicity onslaught. Red carpets, talk show appearances, magazine covers, everything. All of this has me convinced that Les Mis will be a massive disappointment. This is really bothering me.